With the results of England’s 11+ exam looming for many children, Professor Miah inquiries into what we need from the future of education, after having spent the last year supporting his child’s preparation to take this controversial assessment.
Last week was a big week for my son and me; as he sat his secondary school entrance exam, what we call the 11+ here in the UK. We spent over a year preparing for this and it’s been a challenging, emotional journey for both of us.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the UK high school system, it’s quite simple to understand. Some schools are called secondary comprehensives and everyone can access those schools, regardless of academic ability. As long as you live within the local catchment area, you stand a good chance of your child being offered a place at a comprehensive, as long as you remember to tell the local authority about your preference. If you don’t, then your child will end up with whatever the local authority decides is most suitable for them.
Alongside this, we also have selective schools, which have various entrance requirements, but most of them involve some kind of exam designed to test a variety of, well, that’s one of the big problems with these tests. There’s no consensus over what they test or whether they test it effectively. And it’s the difficulty with answering this question that kicks off this entire episode. What is it that we assess when we examine children in schools? It’s a hugely controversial subject, especially when it comes to public education, but, in my mind, having some good answers to this question is central to thinking about the future of education, as it’s all about what it is we think we know and what we think is worth learning in order to be the best we can to secure our future, either as individuals, or as societies.
The opinions vary about these tests, before we even get into the ideological and sociological problems associated with creating a two tier education system, where one section professes to be better than the other. The tests themselves sharply…